DIY Pool Opening
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DIY pool opening (do it yourself) is definitely something that you can take on yourself to help save some of the costs associated with owning and operating your pool. The winterizing process is more technical than the opening process - and much less forgiving as well. If you make a mistake with opening your pool it is unlikely that you will cause any kind of damage to your pool. A mistake with closing your pool however could be a disaster that costs thousands or even tens of thousands to repair. If you are going to take on one of these maintenance items yourself for sure it should be the opening procedure. Largely opening a pool comes down to removing the cover, cleaning the pool and putting the equipment back together. Even if you try and end up not being able to get the pool up and running, you probably still will be able to do the majority of the heavy lifting and a quick service call from a local pool company should be all you need to get the pool going.
If you want to try opening your own pool I have created a number of helpful resources which will assist you with understanding this process. First, this article about pool openings will help you to understand the overall process. Once you have finished that article you should also review this extensive article about pool opening tips which covers many of the less-than-intuitive aspects to opening your own pool. Finally this article about common pool opening mistakes explains some of the more common mistakes that novice pool owners make when opening their own pool for the first time. Between these three articles, as well as the one on this page which you are reading now, you should have little-to-no trouble opening your own pool successfully this year.
Important Note About Opening Your Own Pool - An important consideration when opening your own pool for the summer is who winterized the pool at the end of the last season? If a pool company was used to winterize the pool then you should reach out to this company and verify whether they have removed any of your pool components from your property. Many pool closing companies offer free "helpful" services like holding onto your cartridge filters, pool pump, salt chlorinator cell etc. In most cases these value added services are not really to improve your experience as the pool owner, but instead the intention is to make sure that you must call this company to open your pool in the spring. If they have hundreds of dollars of your equipment then you will need to speak with them before you can open your pool. My professional opinion is that you should never allow a pool company to remove anything from your property. I have seen behind the scenes with literally hundreds of pool companies. I simply would not trust any company to hold on or care for your pool equipment properly over the off-season. If a pool closing company insists that they must remove your equipment (filters, salt cell) in order to clean them, be sure to inform the pool company you want your equipment back as soon as the cleaning is complete. Or even better, ask why they need to take your equipment away to clean it at all. Chances are that they do not, and any reason they provide for why they need to, exclusively benefits them (saves time) and does not benefit you (increased chance of something lost / broken).
What Tools Do You Need To Open A Pool?
There are not very many special tools that you will need if your want to open your pool yourself. This is one of the reasons why opening your own pool can be a great cost-saving idea. The average home owner will have most, if not all, of these tools on hand already. If you do not have these items then you will need to pick them up before the spring season so that you will be ready to open the pool as soon as the weather is warm enough.
Pool companies use large gas powered pumps in order to drain water off of pool covers. These pumps are expensive and far overkill for what an average pool owner needs. For most pools with standing water on the cover you will find a small submersible pump to be ideal for the job. These pumps are not expensive and will have no problem clearing off your cover given enough time. A general guideline for how long it will take a small submersible pump to drain off the cover is that they tend to pump about one inch of water per hour. Obviously this will depend on the flow rate of the pump and the size of your pool, but it should be close enough to give you an idea how far in advance you should drop the pump onto the cover. If you have 20 inches of water on your pool cover then you could estimate that it might take up to 20 hours to pump it all off.
If you are lucky enough to own a safety cover for your pool then you might not need one of these. For all other pool owners you will need to spend quite a bit of effort scooping leaves off of the cover before your can open. These deep leaf nets are the perfect tool for scooping leaves off of pool covers, and it certainly pays dividends to buy a higher quality leaf net. The cheaper versions of these deep leaf nets break very easily and the higher quality nets are well worth the additional few dollars. If you scoop while the submersible pump is running you will probably jam up the pump with leaves so it will be important to periodically check on the pump and clean it out if it has stopped pumping.
If you are opening your pool for the first time you might be inclined to use an adjustable wrench or pliers to deal with the various hardware you need to put back together. This is a common amateur mistake. Since pool equipment is mostly made from plastic or soft metals you should avoid using general tools like pliers or adjustable wrenches, and instead use only the exact correct size wrench for each application. Pool pumps use a 9/16" size nut for winterizing ports. Heaters use 9/16" size nuts for the drain cocks as well as 7/16" and 1/2" nuts for the internal pressure switches. Pool ladders use either 1/2" or 9/16" for the wedge anchors. If you have a pool cartridge filter then you might have a few different sized band clamp nuts, however the majority of these are 7/8" in size.
While you should definitely not use an adjustable wrench for your pool pump, filter and heater, you might find an adjustable wrench to be the perfect thing for removing the winterizing plugs from your pool returns and skimmer. Some winterizing plugs use a wing nut (expandable plugs) which you should not use any tools to remove lest you accidentally break the wing nut off the plug. For the larger style winterizing plugs an adjustable wrench will work perfectly...just don't drop it into the pool!
The total list of tools that you will need to open your pool will depend on what type of pool you have as well as which peripheral options your pool comes with. For most pools the tools listed above will be all you need to get your pool opened and started for the year. The only other tool that many pools will need is a basic #2 phillips screwdriver. This driver will be used to install the brass screw on pool lights that are held in place at the top dead center with a screw. Twist lock pool lights do not require any tools in order to get ready for the swimming season.
Chemicals Needed To Open Your Own Pool
This is a little bit of a loaded question. The actual chemicals that you need to get your pool up and running will depend completely on what type of pool you have, what type of cover you have, and the current conditions of the water. For example, a tarp and waterbag cover is an isolation cover that prevents outside water from getting into the pool. With these types of pools, so long as you do not dump debris in when you remove the winter cover, you will not need very much in the way of chemicals to get your pool up and running. If you are new to pool chemistry then this would be a good time to review the pool chemistry crash course to help get your head around all of the values that you will need to be testing for an making chemical corrections to.
You may have previously used these pool opening chemical kits, or at least have seen them available at hardware stores and big box chain stores. So what exactly comes in a pool chemical opening kit? Do you need each and every one of these chemicals in order to open your pool? The answer to that will depend on the current condition of the water. My biggest problem with recommending these pool opening chemical kits is that I would never recommend to get your pool chemicals from grocery stores, hardware stores, or big box stores. The only chemicals you should put in your pool should come from pool and spa stores. Cheap chemicals are crammed full of fillers and you can pretty much count on having a chemistry problem with your pool (eventually) if you use these ultra-cheap chemicals.
Chlorine Shock - Chlorine shock is the most important thing you need to add to your pool in the spring. Even though you likely added a bunch of chlorine right before you closed the pool and covered it, all of this chlorine will be gone by spring. The cool water temperature and being covered from the sun help to limit the bacteria and algae growth in your pool in the winter. When spring time comes, and you remove the cover from your pool, you need to get the chlorine in the water and the filtration system started as soon as possible.
Stabilizer (cyanuric acid) - Since you most likely drained some water from your pool when it was closed for the season, you will need to increase your stabilizer level to the recommended 30 to 50ppm level. For this reason many pool opening chemical kits contain cyanuric acid to make sure you can prevent the chlorine in the water from burning off too quickly.
Algicide - Most pool opening kits (and closing kits) contain an algicide product. For the average pool owner this might sound like an important additional product to add. The reality is that you do not need an algicide in your pool, because you already have an algicide in your pool! Chlorine is an algicide, and this is one of the reasons why chlorine is the chemical sanitizer of choice for swimming pools. Sure in extreme cases of algae it may be required to use an additional algicide product, but for the majority of pool owners simply adding chlorine to the water should be enough algicide to get the pool clean and clear.
Stain & Scale Prevention - Some pool opening chemicals contain a stain and scale treatment product. While a stain and scale product is actually a good idea, I would much prefer to see pool owners buy a stand alone stain and scale product as opposed to using the ones that come with cheap pool opening chemical kits since they often contain phosphates.
This is the stain and scale product that I prefer to use in swimming pools in the spring. This particular product does not come with opening chemical kits and you will need to purchase it separately. This product helps to reduce on scale formation, which is especially important in salt water pools. Additionally this product helps to prevent stains from metal content in the water.
Phosphates are a problem in some swimming pools but not in others. This will all depend on the amount of phosphates that make it into your pool water. Phosphates feed organic matter growth, and can be found in things like detergents, fertilizer, acid rain and source water. If you have phosphate levels above a few hundred parts per billion then you may have trouble keeping green water at bay since your chlorine will not be able to keep up with the rate of algae growth. Test your pool water, and if you have phosphates be sure to treat your pool with a phosphate remover. This particular version of this chemical also has "pool perfect" which is a natural enzyme which will assist in clearing up the water as fast as possible.
When it comes to pool opening chemicals I would much prefer that you avoid the pre-packaged opening kits and instead just pick up chlorine, a stain and scale preventer, as well as the phosphate remover / pool perfect enzyme. Using these chemicals in the spring will help your pool to get up and running as fast as possible, with as few chemicals as possible. Now that you have a better idea of the tools and chemicals you need to open your own pool, follow the detailed instructions in these articles to help with the rest of the opening procedure:
How To Open A Swimming Pool
Pool Opening Tips
Common Mistakes Pool Owners Make When Opening Their Pool
How To Prime A Pool Pump When You Open Your Pool
Pool and spa chemistry crash course
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